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RCBC Student Opens Dialog on How People with Down Syndrome are Viewed

AnnaRose Rubright

AnnaRose Rubright, a 19-year-old Rowan College at Burlington County student, is asking the question, “How do you see me?” in a global campaign with actress Olivia Wilde for World Down Syndrome Day, today March 21.

“Students attending Rowan College at Burlington County have many different stories, yet we see each of them the same way: as a future leader,” said Rowan College at Burlington County President Paul Drayton. “AnnaRose is already a leader in setting a worldwide example of how we should view people. She is an exceptionally bright and energetic young woman who has a limitless future ahead of her.”

Rubright, the oldest of six girls and a Medford resident, has been a local advocate for years, helping others change their perspectives by showing them that having an extra chromosome doesn’t define your future and all people should be treated equally.  

The opportunity to participate in the campaign for World Down Syndrome Day by CoorDown, Italy’s national organization for people with Down syndrome, came through Rubright’s involvement with PALS, an organization that provides a place for young adults with Down syndrome and their peers to have fun, grow as individuals, and build transformative friendships.

A global communications agency based in New York City, Saatchi and Saatchi, contacted PALS when they were looking for a young actress with Down syndrome to star in the film with Olivia Wilde. PALS reached out to Rubright, who auditioned, and the rest is history.

“I was a paid actress and they gave us our own hotel room,” recalled Rubright.

She met cinematographer and director Reed Morano (Meadowland and the HBO series Vinyl) and Olivia Wilde (House, Meadowland and Tron: Legacy), received hair and makeup, and spent the day in the Hamptons with the crew on set.

In the film, which can be viewed on CoorDown’s YouTube channel at youtube.com/CoorDown, Wilde plays AnnaRose as she sees herself, a daughter, a sister, dancing, laughing, and achieving her dreams, as AnnaRose narrates. At the end, AnnaRose appears on screen and asks, "How do you see me?" The objective of the campaign is to start a conversation about how those living with Down syndrome see themselves and how others can prejudge them based on the fact that they have Down syndrome. The campaign also includes the hashtag, #HowDoYouSeeMe, to help amplify a call to action and continue the conversation. 

In addition to her exposure in the video, Rubright was invited to speak at the United Nations in New York City for the 5th Annual World Down Syndrome Day Conference on Monday, March 21. She will be representing the United States at the conference and will be addressing how she sees herself with speakers and organizations from around the globe including Italy, Australia, Japan, and Mongolia.

She says her public speaking course at RCBC has given her great preparation for the world’s stage.

“Students helped me prepare by offering me critiques like I need to speak louder and make more eye contact,” she explained.

Her journey to RCBC was decided when she was junior at Shawnee High School.

“I received my HSPA (High School Proficiency Assessment) scores in the mail and when I saw them, I said ‘I’m not going to do career training, I’m going to college,’” said Rubright.

Rubright successfully juggles a part-time job at Breakthru Physical Therapy & Fitness in Medford, a full-time college credit load, and her involvement in extracurricular activities like soccer, basketball and swimming with the Special Olympics NJ and Bringing Up Down Syndrome organization, in addition to being involved with her family’s non-profit, the Anna Foundation For Inclusive Education. The Anna Foundation is an organization her parents established when AnnaRose started kindergarten to enhance the educational experience of students with developmental delays participating in inclusive education. 

AnnaRose’s mom, Lin Rubright, describes her as role model, especially for her youngest sibling Rachael, 11-years-old, who also has Down syndrome.

AnnaRose concurs, but tends to think a little larger, “I’m a role model for the whole world!”